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altitudeWinter is not the only time your running may take you among the clouds.  Summer vacations or trips with family might bring you to the mountains.  When you need to run at high altitudes, keeping in mind a few simple things can make your experience much more enjoyable and productive.

 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

At high altitudes, you may not feel sweaty, even after you run.  However, that does not mean that you don’t need to replenish your fluids even more so than at sea level.  At higher altitudes, there is less air pressure.  Evaporation happens more rapidly both off your skin as well as every time you exhale.  At an altitude similar to Denver, you perspire about twice as much as at sea level.  If you are not being very deliberate about water intake, your running will suffer, and general dehydration may make you feel ill (headaches, nausea, fatigue are common effects) regardless.  Carry a water bottle with you, drink throughout the day, and avoid caffeinated beverages.  If you are concerned about how much to drink, weigh yourself before and after a run at altitude to get a sense of how much water you have perspired during the session.

 

Expect to adjust your paces

Running at altitude requires your body to function when your lungs aren’t getting the same concentration of oxygen with each breath.   Your body has to fight harder to produce red blood cells and the whole operation makes things more difficult on your muscles to function in the manner to which you may be accustomed.  If you can run an eight minute mile at sea level, doing so at an altitude similar to Albuquerque or Reno might leave you the finishing the length of a football field behind your sea level self.  For instance, your Vo2 Max pace is adjusted about 3% per 1000 feet, and expect it to still feel pretty tough.  Keeping a good humor and realistic expectations is key to successfully managing your schedule when heading to the hills.

 

It will get better...but it will get a little worse first

There is a lot of discussion about the benefits of training at altitude, but a long weekend at a mountain cabin won’t quite get you there.  When you arrive, your body begins to fight the good fight to produce red blood cells, despite the paucity of oxygen.  Initially, it will lose this fight, and your red blood cell stores will dwindle a bit over the first few days making these days successively more difficult to a certain extent.  After your body figures out that it needs to work a ton harder, it will, and production will ramp up like a toy company at Christmas.  However, this takes a about 2-3 weeks before supply can catch demand.  Once you return to sea level, this high octane production will dissipate fairly soon as the air pressure yields more oxygen per breath.  So, if you are serious about wanting to train at altitude, plan a longer stay, and don’t expect a huge boost months after you return.

Protect your skin

Even a cloudy day in the mountains can result in a sunburn with UV rays over twice as strong at many common mountain heights.  Wear hats and sunscreen, reapplying frequently to stay ahead of sun damage.

 

Keep fueling

At high altitude, your body must work harder to keep up with all the demands listed above and more.  A moderate caloric increase is appropriate to keep up with your body’s needs.

 

While the benefits and challenges of running at altitude are still being researched, a beautiful trail run in the mountains can provide qualitative benefits that go beyond the resultant blood chemistry, and training hard and with friends can plant the psychological seeds for many a goal race campaign.  Plan well, take care of your body while in the hills, and enjoy many a mile in the thin air.

Originally written by Dena Evans
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne



trainingWritten by Jen Van Allen
Updated by Rosie Edwards

While training with us, you'll have a variety of workouts to help you build all-around fitness. Each workout plays a unique role in building your all-around fitness, and helping you reach your goals.  It's important to stick to the pace and distance assigned for each workout. On your Schedule & History page, under the "Pace Chart" you'll see the suggested paces for each workout.  Below, you'll find more guidance on how to guage your effort for each run.

MAINTENANCE: Run at a conversational pace, or 65 - 85% of max heart rate. If you’re huffing and puffing, you’re going too fast.   These workouts are designed to build your aerobic fitness, without stressing your bones, muscles, and joints. Don’t take your easy runs too fast; save your energy for quality workouts like speed sessions and long runs.

REST: Let your body recover from training stresses, get stronger, and bounce back quickly for your next workout.  You may do a low-impact activity: walk, swim, bike, or ride the elliptical. Just take it easy.

LONG RUNS: Long runs are meant to build endurance, and get you comfortable spending hours at a time on your feet. Focus on finishing the distance at your target pace feeling strong. Practice fueling strategies and gear logistics to figure out what will work on race day.

THRESHOLD: This workout, also called a “tempo run,” should feel comfortably hard, but it’s not an all-out sprint.  You should be able to say 2 to 3 words while running.  Threshold workouts should be done at 85-92% of your maximum heart rate. Threshold workouts will help you develop the ability to hold a faster pace for a longer distance, and they’ll train your legs and your lungs to be more efficient.

SPEED SESSIONS: During speed sessions you’ll alternate between short, fast-bouts of running (typically 800 or 1500-meter repeats) and periods of recovery with walking or easy running. These workouts build cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, stride efficiency, and they get your fast-twitch muscle fibers firing. Those benefits will help you no matter what kind of goal is. Try to complete the assigned workout feeling strong.

To learn more about the purposes of each workout, click here.  Have questions? Contact Us.



summer_runsRunners often love to keep a routine.  In fact, many of us are downright stubborn.  Most of the time, like the last few miles of a marathon, this is an asset.  However, in the warmer months, the conditions may dictate the need to make some adjustments in order to keep your training on track for your fall goal race.   Sometimes, being willing to adjust can help you make the best of an admittedly less than perfect set of conditions, and provide a great opportunity to learn that you can succeed even if you have to deviate from your plan just a bit. 

In this episode of Personal Best, we examine a few quick tips encouraging you to adjust your training for the hottest time of the year.


Be prepared to consider running at other times of day

Perhaps you squeeze in your run at your lunchbreak or at the middle of the day.  Although that may usually provide your best time to run, consider planning ahead, at least on your harder days, to run in the early morning or evening.  Yes, there are benefits to training in the middle of the day to late afternoon vs early in the morning, but the amount of performance benefit lost by training in 95 degrees with 90% humidity is far greater than the impact made by training in the early morning before the sun is overhead or in the evening when it goes down.  Plus, this is also the exact time of year when many runners are beginning to take on new training challenges related to their fall goal races and are vulnerable to a bad day or two if the conditions are not conducive to a strong performance.  If your work/ family schedule doesn't allow this temporary change on a regular basis in the summer, look ahead on your schedule to a few of the most rigorous workouts and do everything you can to protect a favorable time of day in which to complete those at least.

If you can't switch the time of day from when the sun is directly overhead, you can also.....

 

Be prepared to consider running in different venues

Yes, your workout sheet may say "Track," but oftentimes the temperature of a track surface can be several degrees warmer than the surrounding areas.  Use your car odometer or handheld GPS to measure out your track distances on a bikepath or safe road, preferably one that offers a stretch with a bit of shade.  Yes, the surface may be a bit less perfectly flat and reliable than the track, but you will ultimately feel better the closer you can come to a reasonable temperature in which to complete the workout.   Run along a street with more intersections (being careful and paying attention to traffic) that offers shade.  Run the same short loop twice where you might otherwise do it as part of a longer loop that includes much more exposure.  Do what you need to do to accomplish your workout, and allow yourself to be able to recover and come back well the next day.  Come race day this fall, you'll be glad you made a less scenic, but safer choice.

Many gyms will offer trial memberships, or reasonable prices for a month or two in the summer.  Take advantage of these and get on a treadmill.  Some runners are diehard outdoor runners.  However, consider how pleased you will be to run at the right pace, particularly with the luxuries of a waterbottle and towel that you do not have to hold yourself, potentially a TV to watch your favorite team play, etc.  You're not a wimp if you go inside to run on a treadmill!  You are an athlete that is prioritizing your performance and wants to feel good doing it.

 

Plan your running around fluid intake

Many of you know to hydrate, before, during, and after longer runs.  We discussed that topic a few months ago here.  However, there is no time of year where it is more important than the summer.  Before you head out on your normal route and in addition to your normal plans, which may include bringing along a water bottle or camelback, consider adjusting slightly as needed to incorporate parks with water fountains, and vendors or convenience stores that won't mind you buying a quick bottle of sports drink with sweaty dollars pulled from your shorts pocket, etc.  During these months, you will need significantly more fluids than normal, and because you should be in the habit of taking them before you are really parched, you are going to need to plan for a larger amount of intake and at more spots along the way.  In addition to drinking, plan to splash water on your head and neck, and other key cooling areas like the back of your wrists and knees.  Don't get caught out! Finish strong because you have been hydrating the whole time.

 

Wear light colored, breathable fabrics

Although another simple step, it bears reminding that lighter colors absorb less heat, and breathable fabrics will help keep you, if not cooler, then less hot and sweaty.  A hat or visor and sunscreen are key also both to avoiding the immediate problems posed by a sunburn as well as long term problems.  Stay consistent!  Plan ahead for the day.  Bring bodyglide and/ or an extra pair of socks if your sweaty feet tend to cause blisters or too much slipping, and a shirt for afterwards so you aren't sitting in your car dripping and sweating.  It is amazing how much better you will feel if you take care to attend to your attire.

Generally, we think of winter as the harshest season.  Often, summer actually provides the greater challenge because we tend to forget how severely the temperatures can affect us.  In addition to the above, it is important to note that all these steps are important both for your training as well as to avoid heat stroke and non-running related serious heat/ sun ramifications.  Take pride in your training, but not so much that you are not willing to adjust and be flexible if the conditions are unsafe.  If in doubt about a choice you are making to go ahead with a workout, and you don't have a trusted fellow runner to discuss it with, contact us at help@runcoach.com!



Rest is Best

May 21, 2021

Written by Rosie Edwards.

We are runners. And for many of us (as runners), our mentality is to GO, GO, GO! We love to push the boundaries of what we think our bodies can do and live to test the waters in order to gain that extra 1%.

But have you ever stopped to think about how our bodies absorb all of the hard work that we put in?

Insert the HOLY GRAIL of training, REST.

rest_is_best







You might notice the Runcoach schedule has a "6 day max" of run day assignments.  Why does every individual need at least one day off? Let's find out:


- Recovery: Training is a stimulus or stress which elicits a response. We stress our bodies through physical activity. It is within recovery that we see sper compendation of fitness development through cellular adaptation, further capillarization in the legs muscles, and improved blood chemistry to move oxygen to your working muscles. 


- Injury prevention:
It’s no secret that running can be hard on the body. Many of us are road runners. We pound away at the concrete in preparation for our next big opportunity to go fast. Our muscles, joints and bones need a break from this.

 

- Mental breaks: Sure, running is fun, and it can be a great stress reliever. However, a rigorous training program can be mentally challenging, too. A rest day helps to give you time to enjoy other hobbies and avoid burnout.


- Replenishing glycogen stores
: When training we use the glycogen in our muscles for energy and it can be a training regimen in itself to keep these stores topped up through adequate nutrition. A rest day provides you with a day to top them up in preparation for your next big run.

 

So next time that you put your feet up, feel good about it. The rest is part of your training too, after all.



Winter Running

May 09, 2021
Originally Written by Kate Tenforde on Jan 09, 2015
Updated by Rosie Edwards on May 20, 2021

Winter has arrived!  The days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping, snow is falling and roads are getting icy.  Are you starting to doubt that you’ll keep your fitness goals on track all winter long?  We’ve got you covered!  Here are some tips to maximize your training opportunities: 
  1. Apparel makes a huge difference! You don't have to spend a lot of money on expensive gear, but layering is key.  Plan to wear an outer layer that blocks the wind and an inner layer that wicks the moisture away from your skin.  If it's extemely cold, add a mid-layer.
  2. Don't overdress.  You'll definitely warm up as you start moving so pretend you are going to workout in weather that is 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it actually is.
  3. Run or walk in daylight whenever possible so you will be able to watch your footing.  If you must workout in the dark, always wear a reflective vest and bright clothing.
  4. Give yourself extra time to warm up.  Your muscles will need it.  Start out slowly and gradually increase your pace.
  5. We sometimes forget to drink enough water when it's colder.  Be sure to drink both before and after your workouts to avoid dehydration.
Treadmills can be boring, but if you can't find a safe trail or road, don't be afraid to head indoors.  Just keep these 2 tips in mind:
  1. A treadmill ‘pulls’ the ground underneath your feet, and there isn't any wind resistance.  Both of these factors make treadmill workouts a little easier.  Setting the treadmill at a 1 or 2% incline will offset these differences.
  2. Be careful not to alter your form.  It can be tempting to start leaning forward at the hips or to grasp the handrail.  Look for a treadmill in front of a mirror so that you can make sure you maintain your normal form and posture.


CaptureAs with any new adventure, when you are starting off, it can seem dauting to set a goal. To take some that stress off, we’ve asked our coaches for their top tips.

A goal, no matter the caliber is critical to keep you focused. A goal should be ambitious, but not so wild that it will take you an exceedingly long time to reach it. As a beginner, you will see various levels of successes rather quickly. Use this to your advantage and set several personally relevant goals.

 

(1)    Exercise Regularly – Run consistently

This can be simply to run/ walk/ move your body and sweat 2 – 3 times per week, for a month. Building a routine is the first step toward meaningful change in your life. Your body adapts the more times you teach it to do a skill. Continually running/ walking will improve the response within your body

(2)    Run a Specific Distance

Be it one kilometer, mile or 5K – marathon, set a distance that you can be proud of completing. Time or pace is not relevant at this point. This is a personal record of the farthest distance you can cover in one-go.

(3)    Run Non-Stop

Set yourself a goal to run on-stop over a realistic distance. At first you can even make it a goal to run around your neighborhood without stopping, then move up to a loop around your local park.

(4)    Select a Race

Live events are a rare luxury for now, but you can still register to support a race organization which is meaningful to you. Most virtual races will send you a finisher medal, and other awesome swag. These are treats to reward you for reaching the goal. 

(5)    Weight Loss

Lots of people start running to lose weight. Just like setting your eyes to run a certain distance, you should set a weight loss goal for each week and each month. Experts recommend 1-2kg (2-5 lbs) as a safe weekly weight loss goal.



calendarLike the recipe of your favorite dish, your runcoach training plan combines many difference types of ingredients.  Each of these ingredients are important, even as some of them come in large quantities and some are just a pinch of salt on top of a mound of flour in the bowl.

 

Your runcoach pace chart provides a wide array of paces for various types of workouts prescribed on your individualized schedule,.  Your marathon, maintenance, 80% and half marathon paces are paces your body should be able to handle for long durations – paces at which your cardiovascular system can keep up with the oxygen demand of your muscles for extended periods of time.  Even though you may not be out of breath during this type of running, your muscles are building more extensive and efficient pathways for oxygen and energy delivery.  In addition, your mind is preparing for the lengthy race task ahead.  If you are using a heart rate monitor, this running is done somewhere in the range of 65-85% of your maximum.

 

While some “Pace Runs” on your schedule might be prescribed at slower paces, “threshold” running is designed to challenge you at a comfortably hard level.  This pace should be sustainable for a shorter period of time, say 20-25 minutes, but should not feel easy to continue much beyond that duration. It should also not feel hard after just a few minutes of running.  This area of pacing helps to challenge your body to become more efficient with handling a steadily accumulating blood lactate level (something you will have to do in races shorter than a half marathon).  Threshold workouts are ideally executed at about 88-92% of your maximum heart rate.

 

Crossing the “threshold” literally and figuratively, leads us to paces that can only be performed for shorter, more challenging periods of time.  Balancing intervals or repetitions with just enough rest or active recovery allows an athletes to spend a significant cumulative period of time at a quick pace and high heart rate, conditioning the body and mind to operate effectively and efficiently at that level of demand, which is ideally in the mid to high 90s of maximum heart rate percentage.  If one ran a series of 800m intervals at 4:00 with 90 seconds recovery, each successive interval would see the athlete’s heart rate shoot up more and more quickly within the 4:00, but ideally not so quickly that the athlete could not complete the interval at the prescribed pace.  This effect may result in the first couple intervals of a workout feeling slightly easier than anticipated, tempting the athlete to run faster than the prescribed paces.  While this may seem logical – to run harder initially and shoot the heart rate to the moon on the first interval – the workout is designed to create its effect by the end of the session.  What may seem like a comfortable pace on the first interval turns out to be a misguided assessment as the athlete slows down precipitously at the end or requires way more rest than assigned.

 

Some athletes may wonder why an 800m or 1500m pace might even be assigned to them as they train for a half or full marathon.  Although the bulk of an endurance race training schedule includes work preparing for the paces, energy efficiency, heart rate demand, and mental effort of the longer races, workouts prescribed with some quicker paces allow an athlete to work on running economy.  Workouts or even strides on your schedule at 800m or 1500m pace provide a valuable opportunity for athletes to challenge the fundamentals of their running stride, to teach their legs to have a bit more range of motion in the stride, to strengthen their feet to push off the ground more effectively, quickly, and with strength.  Although they may seem inconsequential in the larger picture, even small improvements in this area can result in large gains considering how many thousands of strides we take during the course of our general training.

 

While it is normal and natural to feel more at home with one type of workout over another, avoid the inclination to slough off the types of workouts that seem unfamiliar or not in your wheelhouse.  Each of the paces prescribed in your schedule has a purpose.  Commit to executing each workout with mindfulness and a sense of purpose.  This is your best chance of turning out a race day “dish” you’ll remember for years.



Updated by Rosie Edwards.

This month, we touch on a question that comes up over and over with brand new and experienced runners alike.

Form Tip:  Arms

Q:  What should I do with my arms when I run?



Updated by Rosie Edwards

While not everyone can be the running equivalent of a Tour de France champion, dancing on your pedals as you climb the Alps and the Pyrenees with the ease of a mountain goat, we all will encounter hills in our running, and probably all could use a periodic refresher on how to get the most out of our efforts on the ascents.

With the climb or descent looming ahead, how should you prepare to for the challenge ahead? Read on for a few simple cues....

1.  The basics of general good running form almost all still apply.  Keep your arms at 90 degrees (click here to review our column on What To Do With Your Arms) and keep your shoulders low (not hunched) and square to the direction you are heading.  Keep your hands relaxed and swinging through your "pockets", and maintain tall posture.

2.  Don't lean too far into the hill on the ups or too far back on the downs.  Try to maintain a slight lean forward (long lean from the ankle, not the waist) both up and down, just as you would on the flats.  Leaning too far forward on the uphill restricts the ability of your knees to drive and can compromise your ability to maximize your inhales if you are hunched over.  Stay tall, open up your chest, and give your legs and lungs room to work.  On the downhills, braking yourself by leaning backward puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints, and often squanders a chance to make up ground in a race.  A little forward lean, when not on an area with dangerous footing, can help get you a couple seconds closer to that PR, and leave you a bit less sore the day after.

3. Concentrate on cadence.  Resist the urge to overstride on the downhills, and do your best just to maintain your rhythm on the uphills. Yes, you will be going faster than the flats on the downhills and slower than the flats on the uphills if you maintain a similar rhythm and effort level, but you will also most likely arrive at the top of the hill without wasting a bunch of energy for little advancement, and keeping your stride landing underneath your body on the downhills instead of in front will minimize excess pounding.

4.  Don't spend a lot of time on the ground.  Keep your feet pushing off of the ground quickly, just as you would on the flat. For those used to heelstriking on the flats, hills can be a valuable tool to build foot and calf strength as you land more on your midfoot than you might normally.  On the uphills, it should almost feel like your feet are striking the ground behind you.  On the downhills try (as we have discussed), to let your feet land underneath you so you do not have to wait to let your body travel over the top before pushing off again.

5.  Look ahead.  Sure, it is tempting to look at your feet and make sure your legs are doing what we have just been talking about, but looking several steps ahead will help you anticipate any undulations in the hill ahead, any poor footing areas requiring caution, and will keep your posture tall (more air in the lungs!)  and your arms at the right angles.  

This fall, may you approach every hill with anticipation and crest the top with satisfaction! 

Have a suggestion for next month's Personal Best?  Email it to us at info@runcoach.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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